Reproductive health serviceFertility, coupled with reproductive rights matters to individuals because it reflects the extent to which people have the power and the means to make their own choices about the number, the timing, and spacing of pregnancies.
Reproductive rights have been recognized in numerous international human rights agreements. To date, there is no place in the world where all people are fully empowered to realize their reproductive rights. Barriers are larger in some places than others, and harder to resolve in some situations than others.
Rwanda has made remarkable progress in improving reproductive rights which in turn has contributed to the reduction in fertility rates – that is, the average number of children a woman is likely to have. Rwanda’s fertility decline is seen across the continent as a successful reflection of the government’s efforts to increase access to reproductive healthcare and voluntary family planning information and services and increase in women’s level of education, and participation in economic activities, among others.
It is important to emphasize the word voluntary in family planning as it is based on an individual’s or a couple’s free will. With a total population of 13.2 million as reported in the fifth population and housing census, Rwanda recorded a decline in the fertility rate from 4.0 to 3.6 in 2012 and 2022.
Rwanda needs to accelerate its efforts to address the high unmet need for family planning. Improving rights-based family planning will reduce unintended pregnancies, will increase the quality of life of mothers, children and other family members, and also contribute to harnessing demographic dividend – that is, “the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, mainly when the share of the working-age population is larger than the non-working-age share of the population.”
The Demographic Dividend study conducted in collaboration with the Government of Rwanda, UNFPA and the independent consulting firm African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) acknowledges that targeted and strategic actions are required to unlock the potential of the next generations of the healthier, well-educated labour force and in order to unlock the dividend and unlock the economic benefit of larger working population “labour force surplus” and fewer dependents, there is a need to continue investing in social sectors with a sustained rate of reduction of unmet need and investment in education which is critical to ensure our young people acquire the skills and knowledge relevant to the current and future economy and job markets. All this will give Rwanda an opportunity for rapid economic growth and stability. This will allow the country to have sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development, where no Rwandan is left behind and the Rwanda We Want.
It is therefore imperative to build decisive leadership for rights-based family planning as the foundation of sexual and reproductive health and rights. This calls for expanding beyond the health sector to change social and gender norms, laws and policies, financing, delivery and financial risk protection systems to uphold human rights. In all these the Government is committed and on track to achieve them.
UNFPA remains committed to working with the Government of Rwanda and other partners to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.